Will Judges Count Off If I'm Using Safety Equipment
Believe it or not, one of the reasons that many equestrians are choosing not to jump on the safety bandwagon is because they're concerned that judges will count off.
This may sound completely illogical for many, but I grew up in the time of the VPL debacle, where a certain judge would mark on his judges card that there was a Visible Panty Line.
I would hope that safety equipment would be less salacious, but it is a true concern for many. You spend countless hours preparing and countless dollars to look your best. You certainly don't want any of that marred by the look of your safety equipment.
Your safety equipment should be well fitting in order to actually perform its job. In most cases, appropriately fitting safety equipment is barely visible if even at all. Regardless, after conversations with multiple big R judges, the consensus is that the judges want to see people protecting themselves and would not consider marking down when riders are wearing it, even in the equitation classes where a rider's lines are important.
I think the best encouragement we can see is judges themselves using the equipment when they are riding. How many professionals are using FreeJump, Tech Stirrups, Acavallos, Flex-ons, or other forms of safety stirrups?
Professional and R judge Jimmy Torano won't ride without his air vest, nor will Erynn Ballard and too many others to count.
The professionals are leading the way in this trend, with other adults quickly following suit. The juniors have been a bit slower to adopt, but as they see their peers and idols suiting up, they'll soon make the choice as well.
Whether it's an air vest, body protector, or safety stirrups, make sure to explore all of your options and ask the right questions so that you can make an informed decision about what will work best for you.
I'll close with a short story. One of our first clients bought an air vest for her 11-year-old child. At one of her first shows wearing it, the mom was approached be several people who were curious about the equipment, and one of the questions they continuously asked was if mom was concerned about her child not placing. The child proceeded three of her division classes and ended up champion, providing a resounding response to that question.
At the end of the day, your body is worth more than a ribbon. If you have a judge who makes the unfortunate decision to not pin someone as highly because of safety equipment, then it wasn't a class worth winning and it's better to take the protective high ground.
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